Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World

Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World

An automotive and tech world insider investigates the quest to develop and perfect the driverless car—an innovation that promises to be the most disruptive change to our way of life since the smartphoneWe stand on the brink of a technological revolution. Soon, few of us will own our own automobiles and instead will get around in driverless electric vehicles that we summon...

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Title:Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World
Author:Lawrence D. Burns
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Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World Reviews

  • Kevin

    Great read> This will change your view of the future. Highly recommend.

  • Joe A.

    No, seriously. This book goes all the way back to concept cars like Sandstorm and Autonomy to today's developers like Tesla, Uber and Waymo. Complete with the office politics, the engineering and the political problems.

    I also recommend reading "The Upstarts" as a companion to this book. Helps when I read that one first.

    However, this book never really addresses the issue of what will happen to public transit. Food for thought left to your imagination

    No, seriously. This book goes all the way back to concept cars like Sandstorm and Autonomy to today's developers like Tesla, Uber and Waymo. Complete with the office politics, the engineering and the political problems.

    I also recommend reading "The Upstarts" as a companion to this book. Helps when I read that one first.

    However, this book never really addresses the issue of what will happen to public transit. Food for thought left to your imagination, but understand this: Autonomous electric cars will make personal transportation much, much more cheaper.

  • Joonas Kiminki

    A beautifully written view into the past, present and future of mobility. I hugely enjoyed the fluent storytelling and balanced handling of the topics covered, respecting the accomplishents of both Detroit and Silicon Valley.

    I don’t always rate my books ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ but when I do, they deserve it. This story changed my perception for good, even if I admit being looking for such perspective update.

    A beautifully written view into the past, present and future of mobility. I hugely enjoyed the fluent storytelling and balanced handling of the topics covered, respecting the accomplishents of both Detroit and Silicon Valley.

    I don’t always rate my books ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ but when I do, they deserve it. This story changed my perception for good, even if I admit being looking for such perspective update.

  • Ken Hamner

    One of the best books I’ve read about emerging technologies and the impact they will have. Highly recommended.

  • Pete

    Autonomy : The Quest to Build the Driverless Car - And How It Will Reshape Our World (2018) by Lawrence D Burns and Christopher Shulgan is the first insider account of efforts by big companies to create self-driving vehicles. 

    Burns worked for decades for General Motors and was a Vice President there and he has a PhD so he knows GM and Detroit intimately. He also points the billions of dollars that Detroit has poured into research for fuel cells and other technology. 

    This book looks at the way th

    Autonomy : The Quest to Build the Driverless Car - And How It Will Reshape Our World (2018) by Lawrence D Burns and Christopher Shulgan is the first insider account of efforts by big companies to create self-driving vehicles. 

    Burns worked for decades for General Motors and was a Vice President there and he has a PhD so he knows GM and Detroit intimately. He also points the billions of dollars that Detroit has poured into research for fuel cells and other technology. 

    This book looks at the way the self-driving car was developed from the 2006 Darpa Challenge onwards. The earlier work at Carnegie Mellon and by Mercedes is not mentioned. Nor, unfortunately are the role that Neural Networks have played. 

    The book concentrates on the people who entered the 2006 Darpa challenge, in particular Red Whittaker and Chris Urmson. There drive and the Stanford team lead by Sebastian Thrun are also profiled. It's a pretty enjoyable read. The challenges of getting equipment that works and writing the software is brought to life. 

    The book then shifts to Google's Chauffeur project that would eventually become Waymo. Here the drive and targets and challenges of the effort are well portrayed and Burns also joins the team. 

    The book concludes in the present (mid to late 2018) with Waymo on the cusp of launching their first autonomous taxi service. The fatalities caused by Tesla and Waymo are also gone into in some depth. 

    For anyone who is interested in self-driving cars and the future of mobility the book is well worth a read. Burns is a smart insider who has a great deal of interesting material to work with. He also provides a really interesting perspective of the different cultures of Detroit and Silicon and how they are now interacting. The only downside of the book is that there is little real insight into how remarkable the technology is. No doubt other books will follow that examine the remarkable developments of Lidar, neural networks and big data that are enabling autonomous vehicles. 

  • Daniel

    Overall a good read on the history and major players in the AV space. My major complaint is that the author only acknowledges the positive AV scenario, but doesn’t consider things such as more vehicle miles traveled due to the fact that the car is driving for you, or potentially worse congestion depending on how ownership plays out. Google “heaven or hell autonomous vehicles” for a more balanced perspective.

  • Stephen

    if you want to understand where we are and how we got here, read this book. Balances technical and non technical concepts well. Tells the story of all the key milestones with first hand accounts in many cases. Burns himself has had a front row seat and makes this far more engaging as a result. A couple minor bits seem excluded, such as shift away from Google's custom vehicle, firefly.

  • Peter Tillman

    Tech history, starting with the DARPA self-driving challenge races in 2004. His info is good; his writing is, well, adequate. But the material pretty much makes up for that. 3.5 stars, rounded down for the fluff and filler. Book needed a more critical final edit, which you, the reader, will have to supply.

    For an old GM guy, the author sure is anti personal car, and anti-gasoline. And he goes on, and on, and on. Big cars! One driver! Unused 95% of the time! Yada, yada.

    Early self-driving players

    Tech history, starting with the DARPA self-driving challenge races in 2004. His info is good; his writing is, well, adequate. But the material pretty much makes up for that. 3.5 stars, rounded down for the fluff and filler. Book needed a more critical final edit, which you, the reader, will have to supply.

    For an old GM guy, the author sure is anti personal car, and anti-gasoline. And he goes on, and on, and on. Big cars! One driver! Unused 95% of the time! Yada, yada.

    Early self-driving players include the Carnegie-Mellon robotics lab (Pittsburgh) and later, the Stanford robotics people.

    Google’s Chauffeur self-driving project was launched in late 2008, with Sebastian Thrum as CEO and Chris Urmson as chief engineer. Intital goal: drive the toughest roads in California. Street View photos central to project. Lots of interesting info, as this is the project he's been personally involved in.

    First trial: the Big Sur highway. This one was pretty easy, except for the software bugs, and the cliffs. (It’s not the fall, it’s the sudden stop.) Second: El Camino Real, from Palo Alto to San Jose airport. 200 traffic lights! Cyclists! Pedestrians! Congestion! Impressive that they could patch code on the fly. This took a month of hard work.

    Freeway driving on the Peninsula/South Bay: “The jerk came out of nowhere!” Robot anticipated the sudden cut-off. Better than a human driver!

    Their reception in Detroit: “They just kind of laughed and thought it was cute that we were doing this.”

    A 2011 Chrysler TV commercial:

    “ …. An unmanned car driven by a search-engine company. We’ve seen that movie. It ends with robots harvesting our bodies for energy.” And as the muscle car accelerates past the camera, the voice concludes, “This is the all-new 2011 Dodge Charger. Leader of the human resistance.”

    Author’s 2011 consulting report to Google (which goes on forever):

    His guess is, electric self-driving car-on-demand service for 20c./mi. Is this realistic? Who knows? They don’t exist yet (electric self-driving taxis).

    Further guesses: they could initially capture 10% of the American market of around 300 billion commuter miles per year.

    Potential profit = 10c./mi = $30 billion/yr. Whoa! Competitors?

    Again, who knows if this is realizable? But lots of interest, and serious money invested, now including the previously-reluctant car companies. Sensibly, people are building self-driving versions of existing cars. Many of the newer models (Prius, Tesla, Chrysler Pacifica) are "drive by wire," easily converted to computer-control.

    Google’s test of Driver Assist, their earlier version of Tesla’s Autopilot: “what convinced the team to halt testing was the guy who fell asleep, for an astonishing twenty-seven minutes, as he cruised along at 60 mph on the freeway. “

    Tesla’s Autopilot was a really bad idea, as it was promoted by Elon Musk: Beta software that has killed (so far) three drivers. Google warned against it: “We understand how hard this is. This will not work.”

    Estimated 1.3 million roadway fatalities per year, worldwide. (Many fewer in the developed world. 37,500 in US in 2016.). Humans are TERRIBLE drivers! “… more than ninety percent of accidents are caused by humans.” — Kevin Krafcik, CEO Waymo.

    So, lots of potential for saving lives with self-driving cars.

    Per author, Waymo (Google) is now offering limited fully-autonomous taxi service in Phoenix, as of 2018.

  • Barry

    I was at the Urban Challenge in 2007 (still have the T shirt). It was amazing standing next to the road watching cars and trucks go by with no one in them, including 32,000-pound TerraMax, which had to be deactivated before it took out a building. The MIT entry kept braking for shadows across the road.

    One car was confused about something and came to a stop. Another car started going around it, and as soon as it started pulling in front, the stopped car decided to go, and there was a low speed c

    I was at the Urban Challenge in 2007 (still have the T shirt). It was amazing standing next to the road watching cars and trucks go by with no one in them, including 32,000-pound TerraMax, which had to be deactivated before it took out a building. The MIT entry kept braking for shadows across the road.

    One car was confused about something and came to a stop. Another car started going around it, and as soon as it started pulling in front, the stopped car decided to go, and there was a low speed collision. The race was paused and the cars were soon surrounded by an army of engineers who were relieved to find no damage. The cars were separated and allowed to continue.

    I saw the cars handle four-way stops, driving in traffic with human drivers and parking in a lot. First and second place went to expected leaders Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, but third place went to Virginia Tech. Later I learned that elsewhere in the crowd were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who soon started the Google self-driving car project.

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